The jury at Oakland County Circuit Court in Michigan found Jeffrey Craig Ziegler, age 53, guilty of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
They deliberated less than three hours on Friday after closing arguments, where the prosecutor, Kelly Collins, argued that Ziegler “was the danger,” not the teen. Brennan Walker narrowly escaped fatal injury because Ziegler forgot to turn off the safety on his 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun. The video showed he was unable to immediately fire at first, and police confirmed the safety was initially on.
Ziegler’s attorney, Robert Morad, argued his client was firing a warning shot in the air one time and never chased after Walker.
The original charge was assault with intent to murder, punishable by up to life in prison, but Ziegler was convicted on the lesser charge and faces up to 10 years in prison.
He showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
Lisa Wright, Walker’s mother, cried as the verdict was read. She had accused Ziegler of taking actions that were racially motivated. Her friend Carin Poole said justice was served “in some way.”
Poole also said the hope was for a more serious charge.
According to a study done by the Equal Justice Initiative:
White defendants were 25 percent more likely than black defendants to have their most serious initial charge dropped or reduced to a less severe charge; approximately 15 percent more likely than similar black defendants to be convicted of a misdemeanor instead. White defendants with no prior convictions were over 25 percent more likely than black defendants with no prior convictions to receive a charge reduction.
Ziegler testified that he thought Walker was an adult, at 6-feet, 2-inches tall, and that “instinct” made him grab his gun to protect his wife.
Walker testified: “I turned back and I saw him aiming at me… I was trying to run away faster and I heard a gunshot.”
Morad said outside of court that the home security video could appear to show Ziegler was firing in Walker’s direction, but said the shot goes away from where the teen was running.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said, “That’s just completely unacceptable on every level. I don’t know how you would justify it, but it certainly doesn’t pass the muster,” said Bouchard.
Judge Wendy Potts revoked Ziegler’s bond and ordered him to jail pending sentencing Nov. 13.
Reader Question: When sentencing happens in a month, how much time in do you think Ziegler will be sentenced to